Emily LakdawallaJul 22, 2015

Name Hayabusa2's asteroid target!

Have you ever wanted to name an asteroid? JAXA is offering the opportunity to name Hayabusa2's target asteroid, 1999 JU3 to the public through a contest that runs through August 31. There are few conditions on the application process except the standard ones imposed by the IAU:

  • no more than 16 characters long (including any spaces or punctuation);
  • preferably one word;
  • pronounceable (in some language);
  • written using Latin characters (transliterations of names from languages not written using Latin characters are acceptable);
  • non-offensive;
  • not identical with or even too similar to an existing name of a minor planet or natural planetary satellite.

Anyone can apply through the application form, and you can make multiple suggestions if you like.

I've run a few of these naming contests in my time but have nothing whatever to do with this contest, so please allow me to offer a few suggestions:

  • The two most popular types of name suggestions I see in asteroid naming contests are people who want to name it for themselves, or people who want to name it for friends/family members/pets, alive or deceased. There are lots of asteroids named for people's friends or family or pets, but that kind of suggestion is unlikely to win an international contest; you need to suggest a name that will have significance to more people than just you.
  • Another popular name theme is to suggest a name that implies that the asteroid is a threat to Earth (e.g. "Doom" or "Smashocalypse"). I am very glad to tell you that Hayabusa2's target asteroid, 1999 JU3, offers no threat to Earth, so such names don't really fit.
  • One last thing I've noticed is that whenever I write about a naming contest, people offer name suggestions in the comments on that post. I will not be forwarding any name suggestions from the comments section to JAXA; if you want to submit a name, please go to the application form so that JAXA will see it!

Good luck!

Hayabusa2 at asteroid 1999 JU3
Hayabusa2 at asteroid 1999 JU3 Image: Go Miyazaki

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